What to do with all this knowledge?
February 20, 2008 1:44 PM   Subscribe

I never finished college, instead I've been a passionate self-learner for a long time now. I'm interested mostly in cognitive in behavioral sciences. I've read a number of academic and college textbooks on the subject. And now, I really don't know what to do with all this knowledge.

Learning is self-rewarding for me, but still, I would like some formal recognition of it. I'm interested in a few topics from this field, and I have a few ideas of my own, but I really cannot publish them in a scientific magazine. Without formal education, I doubt anyone would take me seriously. I don't want to go to college, I want to continue learning at my own pace, but still, I would like to contribute to science, and all this passion and effort to be acknowledged, somehow. What are my options?
posted by anonymous to Education (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
You're going to have to get back to college. You can't do anything in science without a college degree, especially in the cognitive and behavioral sciences.

-a neuroscience student
posted by kldickson at 2:08 PM on February 20, 2008

Options to contribute to the field? Sadly, not many.

You're right on all accounts that, without formal education, no one will take you seriously in academic circles.

However, although you may not ever get published (and you would never be published with just an undergraduate degree anyhow) that doesn't mean that you cannot contribute to the field.

My idea: Start a blog, create an online community and contribute in any way you can. Invite those who are interested in behavioral sciences, scholars and laymen alike.

Good luck.
posted by willie11 at 2:16 PM on February 20, 2008

Without a degree you are just a dilettante, which limits your ability to do anything serious. Why not start a blog?
posted by ND¢ at 2:16 PM on February 20, 2008

Create works of art which reflect your body of knowledge - fiction, visual arts, attractive charts, whatever. Alternatively, think of ways to integrate your passions with political, psychological, or cultural commentary, preferably in a blog format (unless you're really into publishing your own samisdats!). Without a college degree, you will not be taken seriously when it comes to publishing papers, but there may be other venues for you to express yourself.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:34 PM on February 20, 2008

Get back to school and finish your degree already. You sound like my brother-in-law who complains about all he has to offer the world but isn't willing to finish his abandoned college degree in order to do it. If you have that much to offer, a little more college isn't going to be much of an obstacle.
posted by LGCNo6 at 2:37 PM on February 20, 2008

If academia isn't for you, start a business based on your ideas. What do you like about behavioral science, and how might your knowledge create value? It's not necessarily easy (certainly harder than going to college), but what better way is there to be acknowledged for your work than to have people pay you for it?
posted by blue mustard at 3:05 PM on February 20, 2008

The things you get from school that you can't get from books are the exchange of ideas, perspective on things that seem clear from a book but aren't, an idea of the multitude of ways you can look at something and the opportunity to learn to change your mind about things in a step by step process via new information. All very important for research.
posted by fshgrl at 3:07 PM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

How about becoming a research assistant in a lab at a nearby college or university? Faculty members are frequently in the market for competent, mature RAs. Most RAs tend to be undergraduates -- with all the strengths and weaknesses that come with that age and lifestyle. If you are able to present yourself as dedicated, intelligent, hard working, and mature, and you are able to devote some time (and technical skills if you have them), you should be able to find some opportunities.

RAs do everything from running subjects and programming, to data entry and analysis. If you demonstrate an interest and aptitude, you may be able to have some input into the development and execution of future studies. Experienced non-student RAs are often given the role of 'lab manager,' and can keep things in the lab moving. This may include managing RAs and resources, and even teaching new undergraduate and graduate students how to do research in the lab.

I've known quite a few lab managers who have been able to have a significant influence on the execution of science, and who have been published in the scientific literature.
posted by i love cheese at 3:43 PM on February 20, 2008

Meet up with a professor who loves naturalists. They can help you get a degree/job. With their name on the paper, you can get published.

I've known many successful 'scientists' who didn't have degrees/didn't have degrees in science. One runs a lab doing what he loves and is getting a Masters degree although his undergrad was in the arts, and the other runs a wildly successful bird sanctuary where he breeds and reintroduces endangered wildfowl. If you are good enough/accomplished enough, the degree is really secondary.

See: Jane Goodall
posted by Acer_saccharum at 4:03 PM on February 20, 2008

The skies are not all so dark, and, though the options to you may require a bit of creativity and innovation, they do exist. MIT has been mentioned here before as an option for those who took a more circuitous route to their education.

Also, as I have witnessed of several close friends, the best way to re-enter the system is to, well, re-enter the system... but as an employee. Many universities offer tuition benefits on classes to everyone (and sometimes family) from janitors to provosts. If you can find a job in a research lab or in a related field (shelving books in the science library, even), you already have access to a wealth of university connections. You say you don't want to "go to college," but sitting in on a seminar-discussion might be a great experience to share and exchange these ideas you have been collecting.
posted by zachxman at 4:50 PM on February 20, 2008

you hang around here and answer all the behavioral science questions.
posted by sero_venientibus_ossa at 5:00 PM on February 20, 2008

Maybe the answer is to "go to college" without actually going to college.

A quick route to a bachelors degree for someone like you would be credit by examination. http://www.bain4weeks.com/ has some guides on how to do that at legitimate, accredited universities. (The 4 weeks part refers to the amount of time required to take the exams, not learn the material tested, but it sounds like you already have a lot of knowledge that would be worth college credit.)

With the undergraduate degree out of the way, you could seek out a self-paced online/independent study psychology graduate degree to learn about research and publishing and acquire the appropriate credentials. http://www.degreeinfo.com/ is a good place to ask about distance learning programs.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:26 PM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding the RA suggestion. Find a lab you like at a nearby university, and see if you can find a position there.
posted by tickingclock at 7:50 PM on February 20, 2008

I have not done a lot of research on the topic but there might be some school programs that allow a self-study program. All you would have to do is take the tests and earn the degree. I am sure there are some of these programs available for certain programs however I'm not sure about your field. Wish you all the best.
posted by mrbloo at 10:23 PM on February 20, 2008

There are jobs you could get in which your knowledge would be useful...advertising, for example. You could use your knowledge and special perspective to accomplish great things in your job, and then use those accomplishments as justification to write a book about the intersection of neuroscience and your chosen field.

I think it's important to make the distinction between being taken seriously as a scientist contributing directly to academia, and being taken seriously in some other context.
posted by bingo at 4:47 AM on February 21, 2008

If you do decide to bite the bullet and get a degree (which sounds like a good idea), find a school that will grant you life or work experience credits. I'm pretty certain that Hunter College in New York City does this; I know other institutions do so, as well (you'll probably have better luck with state/city colleges). Here's a link to get you started. (I'm not familiar with that site, just found it by Googling, but it seems to contain some useful information.)
posted by CiaoMela at 8:04 AM on February 21, 2008

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